Courier Letters to the Editor 2-12-14

School taking heat

Dear Editor,

The Pickens County School Board resisted the powers that be of the public education system and in this county, and they are now being smacked for it by one of the system’s attack dogs, the AdvancED accreditation agency.

The public school system is a tightly controlled legion, and all school boards, school districts, and employees are expected to pledge their allegiance. I ran for the school board in 2006 and knocked on 2,000 doors. Many teachers told me, ‘Sure, I don’t agree, but don’t tell anyone I said so because I’m afraid I’ll get in trouble.’

The school district has soaked the county taxpayers for a $375 million building program, after a proposal half that size was defeated in a 2-to-1 vote. Looking to cap the ever-rising cost of the building program, the board voted to cancel the second middle school in Easley. The project was $8 million over budget after some of the leaders of Easley hijacked the design insisting they get more than what other middle schools in the county got.

How dare the board challenge the leaders of Easley, who along with Clemson have been running the school district and the puppet school board for years.

When the school board put the old Gettys Middle School building up for sale and a charter school wanted to buy it, the board was considering the sale. This angered the public education gods. You see, no one on the board, down to the last employee of any school district, is to worship at any other altar but the public school system. To that end, AdvancED wrote it felt the board has not fulfilled its advocacy role of the school district. Some board members were tired of the status quo, and I praise them for considering something new to help the thousands of students who test below grade level in our county.

I have attended school board meetings for a decade. Before, school board members did not dare speak, because as the S.C. School Board Association states, it is the superintendent’s role to speak for the district. Today, school board members, who are elected by the public, speak to the public, at meetings and in the newspaper.

AdvancED complained about that too: “Members of the governing board reported themselves, not all of them share the vision of the district administration.” How dare board members not agree with the superintendent and think and speak independently!

When $13 million in extra interest was earned in the building program, the board voted to put that money in an escrow account to pay down some of the $350 million building program debt. The administration complained loudly. How dare the board not spend that money too! The first meeting after Ben Trotter resigned, in a 3-to-2 vote, board members raided that account, and it was all spent on more buildings.

As charter schools are cropping up like wild daisies all over the state, the school system is in a panic. To hold the ranks among boards, districts and employees, they are cracking the whip and punishing anyone that doesn’t tow the line.

Weldon Clark


A reaction to CCS meeting

Dear Editor,

I attended the Senate Education sub-committee meeting in Columbia on Feb. 5 on S.Bill 300 to stop the implementation of Common Core Standards, and as a former teacher of 29 years and leader of the Upstate S.C. Parents Involved in Education I wanted to give you my impression of that meeting.

Any time both sides of these highly debated standards are presented, it becomes clear as to why the people who are opposed to these dangerous standards are so passionate about making sure these standards are stopped.

The “I love Common Core Standards” speakers were Russell Booker, Superintendent of Spartanburg District 7 schools, Dr. Sheila Quinn, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum of Clover schools, and Robbie Barrett, Associate VP of Workforce, Education and Manufacturing Policy with the S.C. State Chamber of Commerce. Frankly, there was little to no concrete evidence to support their adoration of the standards. Each of them were eloquent speakers, but there was no substantial proof these standards will be effective… how could there be? These standards have never been field-tested anywhere, and they are not in full implementation in SC. There are no Common Core testing results to show improvements, as S.C. students have not been administered the Smarter Balance test as of yet.

The “Stop Common Core in South Carolina” speakers lined up by Sheri Few, President of S.C. Parents Involved in Education and candidate for S.C. State Superintendent, were not only eloquent speakers but were armed with factual information based on expert testimonies from leaders in the educational field with facts, statistics and graphs.

I was highly disappointed in the fact that there were only a few quality questions asked of the experts who testified. Sen. Mike Fair was on target with his question, which highlighted the fact that Booker’s speech on how he is seeing success in Spartanburg District 7 is not based on implementation of Common Core Standards but rather changes in place he made prior to implementation. Sen. Tom Corbin’s questioning of Quinn was on target when he asked her why she thought the appendix resources in the ELA listed books that had sexually explicit materials. He also asked her if she was concerned about student testing data sharing with the federal government. She was unaware of the contract signed with Smarter Balance to provide this information — she had no knowledge that this would occur. Sen. Larry Grooms’ question about the credentials of Sandra Stotsky were very relevant and needed.

The following questions needed to be answered by these so-called experts in the “I Love Common Core” camp:

Mr. Booker, you stated you have not received any complaints from parents or teachers about Common Core implementation — before CCS, were you receiving complaints about the previous standards?

Dr. Quinn, you went into great detail explaining how much time and money have been spent on getting teachers ready for implementation of these standards. Which is more important to you — money and time spent, or children’s psychological well being?

Mr. Barrett, you are in favor of these standards as you perceive they will supply the employers with career ready employees. First, have you read the standards? Second, what proof can you cite that these standards indeed will produce students who are college- and career-ready? Third, how much money has the National Chamber of Commerce received from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to support Common Core Standards implementation?

I have many, many more questions I would like to ask these so-called experts, and if you would like to see those, simply email me at

Johnnelle Raines